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The Sadist

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The Sadist

Published 1963
Topics Horror,

This is believed to be the first feature film based on real life serial killers Charles Starkweather and Caril Fugate.
Mainstream Hollywood would not produce films inspired by the pair until a decade after this one.
A number of films were inspired by the duo (some very loosely) and included such major examples as Terrence Malick's Badlands (1973) and Oliver Stone's Natural Born Killers (1994)

Run time 92 min
Producer L. Steven Snyder
Production Company Fairway International Pictures
Sponsor k-otic
Audio/Visual sound, black & white
Contact Information


Reviewer: Archivian - favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - May 17, 2016
Subject: A Great Watch
/An opinion from someone who is not a film expert/

Very gripping, very hard to watch at points.

Great use of angle in the dramatic scenes, and very well acted. Having read elsewhere that the lead actor was unremarkable in many feature films he was in, if so, it can be said he had a shining moment since he is very believable as a psychopath and has the eyes for it.

It will make you ponder the eternal question of why some among us enjoy making others suffer and kill without remorse or even for enjoyment. You will agonize with the victims and hostages and feel you are in their predicament with them. In a very real sense the director is the Sadist as he toys with the viewer's emotions, but the ending makes the movie be more than sadistic and exploitative titillation.

Not a waste of time at all.

Reviewer: Kentworth - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - February 12, 2015
Subject: Worth watching
Little or no relativity to Starkweather, except his Dean-like appearance, younger girlfriend, and his insanity. But the film is very good, well directed, good screenplay, and worth a watch.
It's not horror, but is very suspenseful. Interesting ending, to say the least.
Reviewer: sammyk1964 - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - February 6, 2015
Subject: A "Must Watch" movie!
Although not the first serial killer couple in history, they are certainly the most notorious even today.

I have seen this movie listed for such a long time, but never thought to watch it till this evening. It is more thriller then horror. And it is so much better then Natural Born Killers. This couple was like feral animals, so I think it was fitting that his screams sounded like a cougars growl.

Very well acted, and filmed. Yes, there were a few flaws & knucklehead moments when they could have tried to escape. But caught in a situation such as this trio was, you don't always think straight. Eventually, that natural "Fight or Flight" instinct kicks in, and you have to try anything and everything in order to survive. That's part of our human nature.

I give it 2 thumbs up & and 6 stars, and extra star for good measure. Enjoyed it very much.
Reviewer: WINSTON SMITH3353 - favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - March 6, 2013
Subject: Mpeg4 has ending
MPeg4 now has an ending and is working just fine as of this date. Try again.
Reviewer: rabid47 - favoritefavoritefavorite - November 26, 2010
Subject: Incomplete file
Downloaded the MPEG4, watched most of it and enjoyed it, but the file seems to be incomplete, so I did'nt get to see the end.

The bad guy reminded me of Glenn Campbell, on crack.

I would have given 4 stars if the file had been complete.
Reviewer: nigeldavahah - - November 21, 2010
Subject: Want to watch
Reviewer: Dr Feel Rotten - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - November 21, 2010
Subject: WOW..Scary
I thought by a few of the reviews this would be poor acting, poor directing, but whoever said that simply didn't watch this movie.
It was VERY well directed and acting was absolutely top shelf stuff.
When I was younger I was terrorized not quite to this extent, but terrorized none the less and this brought back vivid memories of that day.
The bad guy..creepy as creepy gets and his dumb girl just empty headed as they come and i have meet people like that. VERY realistic.
If you don't have your blood pressure medication handy then don't watch this because it's going to send a jolt through you.
Reviewer: VinDcator - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - March 25, 2010
Subject: Everyone should have...
I can't really add anything more relevant to the previous comments on the filmmaking, but it is worth saying that, like most films, you should walk away asking, "What would I have done?" Anyone with even a modicum of basic self-defense skills could have handled this creep many time over, and I truly hope that no one reading this ever has to endure humiliation, or worse, die that way. Everyone watching this "masterpiece of mayhem" should make it a point to gain some basic instruction. To die like that, at least from an existential point of view, lends meaning to the tough choices we all have to make. The movie, "Kalifornia," much similar to this in part, also depicts the police as less than equal to the task. It always comes down to one's own personal responsibility to get the job done.
Reviewer: bassino - favorite - September 10, 2009
Subject: Bad film
I thought this was i cult film but there was nothing there. Just a bad movie which could have been made by college kids. Unrealistic too. The guy could have escaped hundred times from this stupid looking, unreal serial killer, as things were portrayed in this film. My granny would have got away.
Reviewer: guppypartz - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - September 10, 2008
Subject: faced with hopeless choices
Finding themselves in the total power of a psychotic killer, the characters must make certain choices, even if the choices seem hopeless either way.

The most chilling one is early in the film: Should they interfere when their friend is about to be killed, when all that will happen is they will sacrifice themselves as well? Are they cowards if they stand by?

A number of times there's a possible chance of escape, or seemingly possible, but at very high risk, should they take it or wait for a better chance? Maybe it's the last chance! Are they cowards for not taking it?

Is it worth stalling for more time by cooperating when you know you will be killed anyway? Is fifteen more minutes worth anything? Are they cowards for cooperating?
Reviewer: Arch Stanton - favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - April 3, 2008
Subject: Excellent
At the centre of The Sadist is Arch Hall Jr, the cult B-movie star with an appearance that, in one uneasy package, combined that of an Elvis and Michael J. Pollard. Hall Jr's film career was instigated by his producer-father Hall Sr, (himself the inspiration of a cult comedy, Jack Webb's The Last Time I Saw Archie, 1961), who saw his son appear in a succession of films in the early 1960s. They range from a favourite escaped-caveman-on the-loose film (Eegah, 1962), to z-grade rock 'n' roll flicks (Wild Guitar, 1962) and a surreally bad thriller (The Nasty Rabbits, 1964). All retain a loyal following, principally because how truly awful they are. Arch Hall's podgy screen incompetence, together with the risible screen scenarios he perpetually struggled through, virtually created a genre all of its own. By all accounts a reluctant participant in his father's cinematic aspirations on his behalf, Hall Jr happily disappeared from the screen after the dismal western Deadwood '76 (1965), and made a career as a pilot thereafter. The director of Hall's swansong, as well as several others of his films, was James Landis (not to be confused with the director of The Blues Brothers). Landis' career was a similar tale of pot-boiling exploitation work, tailing off into obscurity. Astonishingly, Landis also directed The Sadist. Inspired by the commercial success of Psycho, as well as the real life murder spree of teenage killer Charles Starkweather and girlfriend - the exploits of whom also inspired the better known Badlands (1973), The Sadist comes as a revelation to those used to the inept dross Landis and Hall Jr were responsible for elsewhere. It is as if, for once in their otherwise unremarkable careers, true inspiration finally took fire and they both found a vehicle they were born to make. Whereas Landis' direction can be listless and slack, here it is involved and with a sure sense of dramatic pacing. Where Hall's poverty-row rock 'n' roll persona had previously been laughably ineffectual, here his piggy eyes, intimidating pompadour, and lack of emotional sensitivity seem exactly right in a role that demands icy menace. In retrospect, his Charlie Tibbs is a part one might have wished on the young Elvis, before Colonel Parker shunted the singer off into dull family entertainment.

As others have pointed out, The Sadist's storyline seems amazingly prescient of those increasingly popular amongst modern film makers, such as Kalifornia (1993) for instance, or Breakdown (1997). More interestingly, its suspenseful structure, sweaty claustrophobia, peculiarly menacing protagonists and final chase scenes anticipate The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974). Landis' film begins with the arrival of a sputtering car carrying three sweating teachers en route to a baseball game, whose mechanical failure strands them at an apparently deserted breakdown yard. Aboard the car are middle-aged Carl (Don Russell), an early thirties Ed (Richard Alden) and the beautiful Doris (Helen Hovey). While they are searching for spare parts, and the owners of the yard, the trio's initial apprehensions turn into real fear when confronted by gun-toting killer Charlie, and his silent girlfriend Judy (Marilyn Manning). Over the next 90 minutes the victims are subjected to a callous game of threats and violence as the tearaway threatens to kill them all before escaping.

Set almost entirely amidst the rusting clutter of a desert junkyard, The Sadist has a peculiarly intense atmosphere. A lot of this can be attributed to writer-director Landis' hand; a lot more is due to the crisp black and white cinematography of Vilmos Zsigmond, his first film. He went on to be an Oscar winner, responsible for the glories of McCabe And Mrs Miller (1971) and The Deer Hunter (1978). Much of The Sadist's effect is gained through the skillful filming of powerplay in carefully controlled cinematic space, creating virtues out of necessity in a found set, as Zsigmond's camera prowls menacingly along the ground and amongst wrecked cars, placing the tortured protagonists precisely in their dirt arena. Both at the beginning of the film (a chilling introductory voice over by Arch Hall, Sr) and at the film's climax, the audience is given a close up of Charlie's crazed, beady eyes peering out of the shadows - a striking effect, recalling Bela Lugosi's famous glare in White Zombie of 30 years earlier.

Zsigmond and Landis are here adept at creating powerful moments without a word hardly being said, such as the remarkable well scene when the prowling Charlie, naked blade in hand, contemplates the vulnerable and near hysterical Doris. Elsewhere they are equally adept at introducing suspense by an absence of action, using off-screen space in ways that reminds one of John Carpenter's finest moments. For instance in the opening scenes, during Carl's increasingly anxious exploration of the deserted yard shack, and the almost casual, short, pan down to where the phone line has been only too recently cut.

Hall's moronically sneering Charlie is the most unsettling character in the film and the only role where the actor put in any kind of effort, although even here his performance would have benefited from a little more little more light and shade. Having said that, the malevolent charisma he successfully exudes is still light years away from his regular cheerful mugging and, although he treads the thin line between drama and camp, to the viewer's relief, he never crosses it. Amongst the supporting cast both Don Russell as Carl (also the film's production manager) and Helen Hovey as Doris make their only screen appearances. The only real professional is Richard Alden, a talent later to appear in Tashlin's The Glass Bottomed Boat (1966) before sinking into similar obscurity. His cowardly character Ed, doomed to prevarication and indecision, is a surprising one, who eventually runs rather than fights, almost deserving Charlie's taunting. Well built, he could easily outwrestle and outmuscle his opponent. Early on it is clear that Ed is barely on first name terms with his female colleague - a state of affairs in stark contrast to the abrupt, sadistic insinuations practised by her tormentor who assaults her and pushes her face into the ground. Interestingly, Judy (Marilyn Manning, who also appeared much less impressively in Eegah) barely says a word through the piece but remains an ominous, mute chorus to Charlie's predations. It is her death which triggers the only show of emotion in the killer and which precipitates the final climax.

With its particularly effective use of chronology (the film occurs in 'real time' over 90 minutes, the passage of events punctuated by radio references to the missed sporting event) The Sadist maintains a tight grip over its running time and, given its trash origins, remains a substantial achievement well worth discovering. It's one of those films that restores one's faith in the B-move genre...
Reviewer: agentno99 - favoritefavorite - April 3, 2008
Subject: too long and lean on fact
This film is only similar to the story of Charles and Caril in the fact that it has ruthless killers in it. Otherwise, from beginning to end, it says nothing of the true life serial killers. Not one similarity and not a shred of the story line is even close. I was looking for a true story and was very disappointed. It was also long and dragged on. I may not have been left with such a bad taste had it not set me up to believe it was based on truth. If you are looking for a thriller based on nothing but imagination, I guess this will suffice. If you are looking into the actual story, read a book!
Reviewer: hudgeliberal - favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - December 11, 2007
Subject: Sets the tone for later films.
I agree with some of the earlier posts that this film might have been the inspiration for films like Badlands and NBK. However,Natural Born Killers is,in my opinion,far and away the best of these films. All are great and this film was really sort of edgy if you consider the time period of the early 60's..right before America woke up to reality. The entire film,especially the last 30 minutes,is an intense nerve wracking ride. Very enjoyable film,I streamed it,as is in the small window at start,and the quality and sound was pretty good. If you havent seen this film,put it on your to-do list tonight. Grab a cup of coffee and or your mind altering substance of choice..LOL..and sit back and enjoy a film that could have been made today but far better than most of the junk that passes for movies these days.
Reviewer: billbarstad - favoritefavoritefavorite - December 9, 2007
Subject: Not bad
While not as good as 'Natural Born Killers' or the chilling 'Badlands', this movie portrays the killers similarly, as a pair of feral animals.

Somehow, Landis thought the normalcy of baseball contrasted poignantly with the terror depicted in the movie. Meh.

This film does have a very satisfying ending.

I downloaded the MPEG1 file. The video and audio are fine.
Reviewer: Danial - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - October 19, 2007
Subject: Nothing like the Oliver Stone flick.
If it's true that Olly got his inspiration from this film, then I must say, he took better drugs than I did during the 70s.

This flick is much more interesting than "natural Born..." IMO.

5 Stars all the way.
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